Top Marine Returns to Full Duty Status as Commandant After Cardiac Arrest Last Year

The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Eric M. Smith, speaks with Marines
The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Eric M. Smith, speaks with Marines from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, August 16, 2023. (Rachaelanne Woodward/U.S. Marine Corps )

After suffering a cardiac arrest more than four months ago and subsequently undergoing open-heart surgery, Gen. Eric Smith returned to full duty status as commandant of the Marine Corps on Tuesday, according to a press release from the service.

Smith, who collapsed near his home in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 29, previously said that he intended to return to work as commandant. In January, he underwent open-heart surgery to repair a congenital defect that doctors said contributed to his hospitalization.

He took back the reins of the service from Gen. Christopher Mahoney, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, who had been serving in both positions since November.

Read Next: VA Secretary Intervenes After Top Officer Orders Iconic World War II Kiss Photo Removed for Being 'Non-Consensual'

The Associated Press reported last week that Smith had quietly returned to the Pentagon multiple times over the last month and was preparing to return to duty.

"Gen. Smith and his family appreciate the full support of Congress; the leadership at the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, the Joint Force; and all who extended them their well wishes during his recovery," the Marine Corps press release said late Tuesday evening.

A spokesperson for Smith, Maj. Josh Larson, told that the decision for the commandant to return to full duty status involved meeting certain recovery milestones, was done under the advice of his doctors, and after consulting with Department of the Navy leadership.

A month before his cardiac arrest, Smith was confirmed as commandant amid a congressional roadblock headed by Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a Republican, who held up military confirmations in protest of a Pentagon policy reimbursing travel expenses for reproductive care, including abortions.

In December, Tuberville dropped his remaining holds.

Smith collapsed near Marine Barracks Washington two days after the Marine Corps Marathon, which he did not participate in, but appeared at. Bystanders called 911 and performed CPR on Smith. Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, a three-star, briefly held the position of acting commandant until Mahoney was confirmed.

Just weeks after his hospitalization, Smith reassured Marines in his first public-facing appearance in a video posted to social media. At the time, he said, "I'm still in the fight; I need you to be in the fight."

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said Tuesday he was "pleased to report that Gen. Eric Smith has fully recovered," according to a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. "I am grateful to Gen. Mahoney for his steady hand at the helm of the [Marine Corps], and I look forward to seeing Gen. Smith back in action."

Related: 'I'm Still in the Fight': Top Marine General Makes First Video Appearance Since Cardiac Arrest

Story Continues